By LISA KLEIN
Each spring, the Netherlands comes alive, awash in a sea of brightly colored blossoms, none more revered than the national flower, the tulip.
Tulip celebrations in the country, including in the north and south Holland provinces, last for most of April, making for a vibrant springtime visit.
The flower is surprisingly not native to the area, coming instead from Central Asia, but quickly entrenched itself in local hearts throughout the 17th century.
The upper classes’ obsession with finding the best colors, most interesting patterns and rarest varieties culminated in tulpenmanie in the 1630s, when the price of the best bulbs soared.
Nowadays, the Netherlands produces 90 percent of the world’s tulips, and a large chunk of the rest of its flowers, in the Bollenstreek region along the western coast from The Hague to Haarlem. Its long spring season, cold nights and well-draining soil make the region the perfect place to grow bulbs.
The appearance of crocuses marks the start of flower season at the end of March, followed by daffodils and hyacinths, with tulips finally showing themselves in mid-April.
Below are a few ways to catch a glimpse of these beloved blooms.
Amsterdam Tulip Fest
The tulip festival in the capital of Amsterdam lasts all April and takes visitors on a journey throughout the city.
Hundreds of thousands of bulbs are planted at over 80 locations, from street corners to museum gardens.
Just outside of the city in Aalsmeer is the Royal FloraHolland, the world’s largest flower auction, where the public can see how these precious bulbs change hands.
Keukenhof Gardens is one of the best places in the country to see spring in action.
More than 7 million bulbs blossom there during the season, including 800 varieties of tulips. Hiking trails wind throughout various gardens, trees and ponds for 10 miles.
Many tulip farms in the Bollenstreek welcome the public to walk through their fields – a dizzying patchwork of purples, reds, pinks, oranges and yellows – although visitors should not enter the fields without permission.
From renting bicycles to taking a helicopter tour to see the stripes of color from above, a visit to the countryside is sure to be filled with flowers.
The Bloemencorso Bollenstreek, or flower parade, takes place this year on April 23 for its 75th anniversary, and is truly a spectacle to behold.
Sculpted floats covered in tulips and other flowers make their way along the 26-mile-long route from Noordwijk Beach to Haarlem, an all-day affair.
Visitors can watch from grandstands or the streets along the length of the parade.